By Will Meek / January 13, 2017
Black Button Distillery is Rochester New York’s first “legal” distillery since prohibition. It opened in 2013 and produces a full range of spirits, with a four-grain bourbon leading the way. However, that’s not the best part of the story.
In a world of upstart distilleries that mine family trees for any connection to pre-Prohibition whiskey, Black Button has a better story. President and head distiller Jason Barrett comes from a line of fine suit makers. His grandfather crafted suits worn by “Presidents, Popes, and Kings,” and Jason got his start in the factory, where he learned about the important of work and craft.
Jason knew that he was not going to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps in the fashion world, and instead attended several distilling schools, and worked as a business consultant in Washington D.C., before moving back to Rochester to open Black Button. Like his suit-making grandfather, Barrett attends to each step of the process as a craftsman, carefully selecting grain, creating recipes that previous generations would have enjoyed, and experimenting with unique creations such as the whiskey reviewed here.
Tasting Notes: Black Button Port Finished Bourbon
Vital Stats: Four-grain bourbon, 2 years on oak, 1 year in a port barrel, 110.8 proof, 312 bottles produced, $100 for 375ml, Grain Bill: 60% corn, 20% wheat, 9% rye, 11% malted barley.
Appearance: This pours a dazzling amber, with thick and slow legs.
Nose: I poured my review sample with a single drop of water. Without surprise, there are massive port notes up front on the nose followed by raw wood and cinnamon. It has a strong nose, but is missing some complexity and depth. However, it’s pleasant and is an immediate reward for taking the time to pour it.
Palate: There is a strong heat right off the bat, about right for the cask strength. This beast is full and lively on the tongue and has a strong sweetness, with clear notes of mixed berry syrup, flavored tobacco, and a touch of treacle. It is slightly tannic, and the port influence is unmistakable.
Finish: It has a medium-long finish, that is warming, and has a touch of charcoal toward the end.
Final Thoughts and Score:
This was a difficult spirit to review because I don’t believe I have tasted a finished whiskey that was this young. Given that, it delivers big in flavor, though the port almost completely takes over the whiskey. That and the liveliness on the palate held this back from being worth the price tag in my book.
All of those things could be fixed by more time on the oak, something that I imagine Black Button is already doing. Regardless of that, this is definitely worth your attention.
Editor’s Note: A sample of this whiskey was provided to us by those behind it. The Whiskey Wash, while appreciative of this, keeps full independent editorial control over this article.